Monday, June 19, 2006

Focus on Doyle Suggests Lack of Message for Green

The blogs at the Journal-Sentinel can be interesting in the way they often provide a glimpse into the politics of reporters who otherwise fashion themselves as "objective" sources (as if such a thing was possible).

This was certainly the case on Friday with a post on the "All Politics" blog by Steven Walters. The post deals with a fundraiser Governor Doyle is evidently holding today at the University Ridge golf course.

Walters starts the post by writing: "From the timing-is-everything department." As it turns out, this isn't correct. It was really from the something-out-of-nothing department.

Walters apparently finds it troubling that Doyle is still trying to raise funds for his campaign one week after a lone civil servant was convicted of manipulating the bidding process for a state contract.

Walters writes: "Sure, the University Ridge golf outing -- a major source of funds for Doyle's re-election campaign -- was organized a long, long time ago. And governors usually turn their birthday parties and similar events into opportunies [sic] to raise huge amounts off cash."

But Walters isn't buying that logical explanation. Apparently the conviction of Georgia Thompson should, in his view, keep Doyle from taking any steps to raise money for his campaign. What's next -- concede the election to Mark Green, perhaps?

As it turns out, many Republicans do seem to be hoping that the Thompson conviction is enough to propel Doyle out of the governor's mansion. Conspicuously absent from the discussion, however, is any talk of their own candidate, Mark Green.

Evidently unable to find suitable talking points that feature any potential upsides of Green, the GOP is trying to level weakly-backed charges against Doyle as their primary election strategy. Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post noted recently that "fundamentally this race will be a referendum on Doyle," and that seems to be a fact the Republicans are trying to nurture.

As Democrats, we know quite well the results of making a major election merely a referendum on the incumbent:

Eventually the GOP is going to need to start talking more about Mark Green if they hope to win the election this fall -- this is especially true considering the relatively low name recognition Green currently has across the state. Just two months ago a WPR/St. Norbert College poll showed that 40% of the state doesn't know Mark Green.

Talking more about Green would mean talking about the actual issues facing Wisconsin and, most importantly, what Green proposes to do about them.

So far the primary issue to come out of the Green camp has been taxes, which by itself is a difficult issue to push because Doyle has held the line on taxes and cut the long-term state deficit in half since being elected four years ago.

Of course, Green could always try to take things a step further with taxes and promise a reduction. And, as it turns out, he did this very thing with his fervent support for the so-called "Taxpayer Protection Amendment" that came up for a legislative vote last month.

Green criss-crossed the state in the weeks leading up to the vote in the hopes of drumming up support for the amendment. Charlie Sykes even went so far as to say Green's support would be enough to turn the tide of the amendment.

Unfortunately for Green, two out of every three legislators in the Republican-controlled Assembly and Senate voted against the amendment, which suggests a good portion of the state isn't on board with writing restrictive fiscal policy into the state constitution.

And the failure of the TPA prompted another radio talker, Mark Belling, to toss Green to the side and throw his support behind the hope that Tommy would make a run for the governor's mansion this fall.

As Belling explained just one month ago: "Many in the Republican base are ambivalent about Green. He seems clueless about how to exploit voter anger over high taxes. His record in Congress included a lot of votes for a lot of spending."

It seems Green better find a message -- and with the election less than five months away, he better find it quick.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Doyle's record on the budget deficit: $2.6 billion next year alone. That's down from $3.2 billion, but still not anything to brag about. Especially when other Democratic governor's, working with their Republican legislatures, not only eliminated their deficits, but now have budget surpluses.

Doyle on the budget itself: The state budget came with an annual cost of $48 billion in 2002. Today, the budget comes with the price tag of $54 billion largely because he gaveaway the farm to school districts.

And Doyle's record on taxes: Property taxes have increased by 10 percent since he became governor. How's that holding the line on taxes? He also introduced the iPod tax, which was soundly rejected. And his DOR expanded the sales tax to include back taxes on gun clubs in the State of Wisconsin. This governor has tried to raise taxes several times.

We conservatives don't need Georgia Thompson, or any other administration scandals to beat Doyle. This campaign is about Doyle's record and how Wisconsin can and must do better!

June 19, 2006  
Blogger Seth Zlotocha said...

Your confidence in not needing Thompson to defeat Doyle isn't demonstrated in the recent GOP talking points.

In terms of the long-term deficit, your numbers are just flat-out wrong. The $2.6 billion figure comes from the addition of projected appropriations by two GOP legislators (Ellis and Cowles).

The original figure cited by the LFB was $1.54 billion, which is the cost of current obligations (including bills signed into law this past legislative session) minus stagnated revenues.

This is the analysis that the LFB completes prior to every biennial budget process -- and the one that found the long term budget deficit to be $2.9 billion in 2002 when Doyle came into office.

To add projected increases in appropriation commitments to the current long term deficit (i.e., commitments that currently don't exist), which is what Ellis and Cowles did to get the $2.6 billion figure, renders a comparision to the 2002 figure of $2.9 billion pointless because it becomes a comparison of two very different things.

Here's the LFB analysis, if you're interested. Page 5 is where it discusses the current long term deficit in comparison to prior years. It shows very clearly that the long-term projected deficit was cut in half between 2002 and now.

Regarding the increase in state revenue between 2002 and now, do you expect revenues to remain stagnate over time? Of course revenues are going to increase -- even the highly restrictive TPA allowed for a 4% annual increase in governmental revenue (which, as it turns out, is higher than the actual amount revenue has increased under Doyle -- so, in actuality, Doyle abided by the restrictions of the TPA even though he wisely doesn't approve of writing restrictive fiscal policy into the state constitution). Not even the most stringent fiscal conservative is expecting no increase.

Regarding property taxes, that's a local government decision. Doyle put a cap on how much local units could increase property tax rates (a cap I disagree with -- I happen to think property taxes should remain a 100% local issue). Some local units chose to increase to the limit, some (like Milwaukee County) didn't. Plus, even without allowing any increase in the property tax rate, property taxes could still increase as property value increases. Unless, that is, we don't want our houses to appreciate in value.

June 19, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is amusing how Doyle's supporters are complaining about the media now that they are actually writing stories about him that weren't retreads of Dem press releases. You are so used to having the press lay down and write soft pieces that anything bordering on a tough question is deemed unreasonable.

Don't worry, you'll always have the Cap Times.

June 19, 2006  
Blogger Erik Opsal said...

I'm wondering if the second anon is the same as the first. If so, I notice they said nothing on being proven wrong. Also, I wouldn't exactly call the wsj blogs the media. I didn't even know they existed until today.

June 19, 2006  
Blogger Seth Zlotocha said...

I also find it interesting that both of the anon comments (particularly the first one) proved the fundamental point of my post, which is that conservatives are relying on attacking Doyle as a way to win the governor's mansion rather than talking up their own candidate.

My argument is that, at this point, there isn't much to talk about with Green -- and about a month ago, at least one prominent conservative commentator (Belling) agreed with me. If this race remains solely (or even primarily) a referendum on Doyle, I don't think Green stands a chance.

June 19, 2006  
Blogger krshorewood said...


"It is amusing how Doyle's supporters are complaining about the media now that they are actually writing stories about him that weren't retreads of Dem press releases."

Could you honor us with some examples?

June 19, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You got to ride the horse as far as he goes. Sure Green needs to (if he hasn't already) come up with an agenda, but as long as Doyle gives him talking points...

This resembles the national scene. It's not that the Democrats don't have an agenda, but as long as things are going badly for the administration, they could delay articulating them.

June 19, 2006  
Blogger Seth Zlotocha said...

I agree it resembles the national scene, but only to a certain extent -- and I think that comes mostly in the GOP imagination.

To pit the conviction of a lone civil servant (it doesn't appear any additional charges are going to be filed, and Thompson passed on the opportunity to roll over on anyone after her indictment and it appears she still isn't going to roll over on anyone after her conviction -- all of these facts point to her acting alone) against the troubles of the Bush Administration (Iraq, Katrina, the national debt, Valerie Plame, NSA wiretapping, Guantanamo, etc.) and the Republican-controlled Congress (Jack Abramoff) is hardly an adequate comparison.

Also, the evidence from the national scene in '04 was that merely staging a referendum on the incumbent in a high profile election isn't a wise election strategy -- and, as I note above, the negatives of Bush were significantly higher than any potential negatives surrounding Doyle.

June 20, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I didn't mean to say that the comparisons were equal, but the principle is still ride the horse as far as it will take you. Obviously the administrations multiple problems have given the Democrats a longer ride than the Thompson thing.

In '04, I don't think Kerry differentiated himself as much from Bush. I think if he ran then as he is running now, he probably wins.

The strength of Green's candidacy will be determined by how much the public perceives him to be different. If the Democrats attempt to link him with Bush and DeLAy/Abramoff works, I don't believe people will perceive him to be much different from Doyle and Doyle wins.

June 21, 2006  
Blogger Seth Zlotocha said...

Perhaps I'm not cynical enough, but I think this election is going to be won on the issues -- or at least the packaging of them for public consumption.

The thing is, right now, Green is talking about Doyle and Doyle is talking about himself. As long as that remains the case, regardless of the ethics charges that are thrown around in the campaign trenches, Doyle -- as incumbent -- will win.

In general, to defeat an incumbent (assuming they haven't screwed up big time) I think it's necessary to both point out what they've done wrong AND demonstrate what you would do right. So far Green seems to be trapped in the first part of that equation.

June 21, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You're right, Seth, you're not cynical enough. You're an idealistic liberal. Hey wait, I'm supposed to be idealistic. ;-)

It will be interesting to watch and see how this turns out.

June 22, 2006  

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